It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Can't Believe He Came Here Like That

Today I had the pleasure of making an unplanned trip to Wegmans. Have I ever said how much I like grocery shopping? Well Wegmans is at the top of my list. If you know me and know my eating habits of the last 6+ months, you wouldn't have been surprised to see me buying 6 Green Giant veggie boxes. People always ask me if I need help when I'm reaching for frozen food, being that most of the time the angles that they are placed into the cases make me have to shift around a lot in order to reach them. I only stand up as a last resort, sometimes passing on something that is too high up, as I'd have to place my basket on the floor in order to do so, and picking it back up if it happens to be full is way more of a challenge then reaching the food while sitting down.

I noticed voices to the left of me, a family discussing which veggies to buy, but as I was both heavily concentrating on wiggling free a box of broccoli with cheese sauce and totaling up the cost of my basket, I didn't pay them any mind. Besides, I didn't get the vibe that there were little children staring at me and they seemed too involved in veggie picking to bother to ask me if I needed help (a relief).

Like any good driver though, when I had my 6 boxes and backed away from the case I turned my head left to make sure I wouldn't run into them. Standing there with his parents was a boy around 14 using a reverse walker. I didn't look at him long enough to notice what his clothes looked like, if he was wearing AFOs, or if the hand grips of his walker were red (they most likely are). I only noticed out of the corner of my eye that he most definitely has CP. I was too focused on repeating "$18.71, $18.71" in my head to think I cared.

[image description: the walker with the red handles, although mine didn't have those hip positioning pads]

Except I did care. The first thought that came into my head was I can't believe he came here like that. The next was, no wonder they understood that I didn't need help... Then I wondered why I thought such a seemingly negative thing about the boy. It was totally a transference thing. Did his parents force him to go grocery shopping against his will? Was he insecure and embarrassed, is he sick to death of preschoolers staring?

I would never have gone out in public using a walker without putting up a fight. People might think I'm r------d. People I'll never see again... But that used to matter to me. I wasn't that kind of cripple, and I didn't want anyone thinking I was.

Then on my way home more thoughts came into my head: Did his parents force him there? Did they force the exercise on him? Doctors have "prescribed" grocery shopping to me in my life. Does he not like his chair? Has he used a walker since he was a toddler so that after over a decade he's OK with it? I have used one only here and there. Did he like not walk until he was 10; has he bought into the "people who walk are better, I'll use my chair over my dead body" rhetoric? Been there done that.

Then I felt sorry for him. Wegmans is the biggest grocery store I've ever been to. As I have trouble finding things and often have to walk back and forth around the store or up and down the same aisle three times in order to find things, I have gone there on foot and left not being able to stand for the rest of the day. Does he not have a powerchair? Is he mortified at the thought of his parents pushing him in public? I most certainly was at that age. He doesn't have to go home and collapse tonight. I didn't.

See what I mean, transference? I was having flashbacks to 1999. All I can hope was that they were flashing forward, noticing that I was alone, doing my shopping independently, and wondering how I got there. Did I drive, take paratransit? I actually had rolled the mile and a quarter from the last place I was, and then took the train to the bus and rolled the last 2 blocks home.

Do his parents have more hope for his future now then they did before we bumped into each other? Do they see less dependence for their son and more independence? Do they wonder if I live alone? The only exchange we had was the mom offering to close the freezer door for me as I was backing away "Oh, I've got it," I said for the 9001th time. That was before I saw her son. Neither of us said anything after. Was the kid looking at me in horror, swearing to himself that he'd never be caught dead grocery shopping in a chair? Flashback, 1999: I would have said that exact thing to myself.

I've certainly grown in the last half of my life, as I obviously don't think that now, and for that I am thankful. But it makes me wonder why all these thoughts came into my head so quickly. Why my memories of these things are so vivid, while memories most people treasure, like summer camp are harder to bring to the surface. Is this a shared experience among people who were born with their disability? Because I thought only people who had serious trauma have flashbacks...


Cortney said...

Interesting perspective.

I had that walker (also without the hip positioner) and I don't remember any negative experiences or memories. I still walk almost exclusively with crutches (though this is slowly changing due to pain). I choose to walk even though I have a scooter. I just prefer it...I find it easier.

I never was bothered much by people's stares...until that I am a mother. I am bothered that my almost 4 year old feels the need to defend me. It bothers him A LOT when people stare.

I hope that seeing you gave that family hope. I always make a point of being open to conversation with families with disabled kids. It is usually a good learning event for both of us.

cynicalbeauty said...

I have that walker. I don't use it a ton, but like all assistive devices it has its place. Mostly I use it in situations where I want to walk but might need a bit more support than crutches provide. I also have a friend that uses one 75% of the time and one that uses one exclusively. So I never had any negative thoughts associated with it. I refuse to use a forward walker like the ones they sell in Rite Aid though, because they make me feel like an old lady, so i guess I see where your coming from. I think everyone just uses what works best for them. :)

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